Punchestown Racecourse is Ireland’s Premier National Hunt Racecourse, boasting 17 of the National Hunt Calendar’s most prestigious Fixtures, but none more so than the Punchestown Festival (Tuesday 24 April to Saturday 28th April, 2017).
A packed crowd can be expected and, though there is no dress-code, many take the opportunity to put on their finest attire. However, due to the quantities of Guinness and Champagne that gets consumed over the 5-days of the Festival, many go home looking worse for wear.
Famous Races Held At Punchestown
The Punchestown Festival hosts 12 Grade-1 Races, the second-highest after the Cheltenham Festival. Tuesday is Boylesports Champion Chase Day, whilst the other two grade-1s on the first day are the Growise Novice Chase and The Herald Champion Novice Hurdle. Meanwhile, Wednesday’s highlight is the Punchestown Gold Cup, which is backed-up by the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle. Thursday is then the turn of the long-distance hurdle stars as they line-up in the Champions Stayers Hurdle, which is supported by the Ryanair Novice Chase. Friday then brings in the stars of the 2-mile hurdling division for the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, whilst the feature of Saturday’s card is the Champion 4-Year-Old Hurdle.
Meanwhile, other notable grade-1 races held at Punchestown throughout the season include the John Durkan Memorial Chase, and the Morgiana Hurdle.
The Punchestown Chase Course is a galloping, right-hand track with plenty of undulations, whilst the last 5-furlongs brings stamina into play with a steady ascension to the winning-post. There are 11-fences to be jumped per circuit, and jockeys rate it as one of the finest and fairest anywhere.
The hurdles track is also right-handed, but it isn’t as popular with jockeys as the chase track though. This is due to its more undulating nature, and the fact that the bends are a lot tighter than the chase track. Whilst the chase track suits all-sorts, many jockeys consider the hurdles track suits horses ridden prominently rather than ones that like to come from the back of the pack.
There is also a cross-country course and, typical of these types of courses, it twists both left and right as it takes in a variety of brush fences, banks and other obstacles designed to test every aspect of a horse’s jumping-skills.
Trainers To Watch Out For
Willie Mullins tends to dominate the Punchestown Festival, and he’s expected to have lots of winners again in 2017 as he tries to win enough prize-money to wrestle the Irish Trainer’s Championship out of Gordon Elliott’s hands. Mullins, despite his popularity, has even shown a level-stakes profit over the last 3-seasons.
However, if it’s profit you’re after, then keep an eye of Jessica Harrington’s runners. She’s already enjoyed magnificent success this season with Sizing John winning the Irish Gold Cup and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and Our Duke winning the Irish Grand National. She’s also enjoyed nearly a 20% Strike-rate here over the last 3 seasons, with her winners returning nearly an 80-points level-stakes profit.